Wondering where I’ve been for the past week? I was out backpacking Turkey Creek canyon in the Gila Wilderness with my friends and colleagues from REI. I signed onto this trip, my first backpacking trip ever, when Les posted it in on FaceBook in January. I have had lots of camping adventures in my life, but had never backpacked, so this was my opportunity to try it out with experienced people and see if I liked it. What I discovered was I LOVED backpacking. There is something great about carrying everything you need on your back, going where few people travel, setting up a tent, sleeping in the wilderness and experiencing nature up close and personal. And the stars, oh my gosh, the stars at night are incredible. If you have never seen the night sky away from the lights of a city, you have missed a true wonder. Having lived in Memphis, TN for a few years, I know what it’s like to see a night sky full of reflected light and maybe two or three stars, so I more than ever appreciate a sky full of stars, especially under a New Mexico sky.
This trip was a true challenge for me because I still suffer a little pain from the sciatica episode I had over two years ago and was worried this would keep me from the trip, but my regular swimming and cycling have paid off. My pack weighed in at just under 35 pounds, a manageable weight for the trail, and my body was fit enough for the hike and the bouldering we had to do. We crossed the river three times, as we went in and came out, a daunting task for me because as a 9 year old I was swept away in a river for about 50 yards, but fortunately caught by an adult down stream; however the fear of that was in the back of my head as I took that first step into the river. My friend’s encouragement to look at the shore, not at the water, made the crossing easier and once I realized the current was not that bad, I was fine. We hiked on a trail for the first four miles, crossing Turkey Creek back and forth many times, but then we came to the “hole in the wall,” a ten foot passage through a rock cliff, in which we had to crawl and pull our backpacks behind us. Emerging from the hole, we then had to go through the “squeeze” up over some boulders through a narrow passage. Once on the other side, the next 1/2 mile to our camp was over and around boulders and cliffs, narrow paths, or no path at all, and many creek crossings. And don’t let 1/2 mile fool you, that half mile took over two hours going in, and an hour and a half coming out!
Once to camp, we set up our tents, ate our dinner and then gathered round the campfire to talk about our day. Through our team work of helping each other through out the journey, and those conversations around the fire, we came to know each other better and to appreciate each other more as well.
When we hiked out, once we had made it back through the “squeeze” and the “hole in the wall,” we stopped for lunch. I remarked it felt good to have the tough part behind us and Dawn said to me, “doesn’t it make you feel bad ass to have done that?” and I said yes, and she told me, “you are a bad ass!” And you know what, I am! I challenged myself to go beyond my comfort zone and to do something that mentally and physically challenged me. When we crossed back over the river for the last time, it had risen at least six inches since we went in, rising to the crotch of my pants, and was flowing faster than before, but I dug my walking poles in and plunged across, knowing I was a “bad ass” and could do it!
I know backpacking is not for everyone. My husband loves car camping but has no desire to backpack. But he chooses to challenge himself with an ultra marathon of 54.2 miles down the continental divide, and the Portland Marathon, and this year he is planning to ride the Enchanted Circle, a 100 mile bike ride in northern New Mexico, all challenges I have no desire to do. We each have to chose our own challenge and rise to the occasion.
So what will your challenge be? Are you leading a sedentary life? Maybe the challenge of running a 5K would be right for you. Can’t run? Then walk that 5K. Take a hike and challenge yourself with some hills. Live in a city? Then hike the city. Go places you haven’t explored. Already a runner? Then try a triathlon. Get on a bike. Take a swim. Chose a challenge and start training and preparing. Life is short. I wish I had started backpacking thirty years ago, but I didn’t. However, I refuse to say it’s too late. It’s never too late to do something new. Never too late to challenge yourself and never too late to become a “bad ass!”
Let me know what your “bad ass” challenge will be! Can’t wait to hear and cheer you on!
Peace and Joy
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